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Tofu Recipe (Sort of…)

This is sort of a recipe. It’s pretty loose, but someone asked for it, so I’m gonna write it up.

I got a block of tofu at the store. Probably firm, or extra firm. I don’t remember.

I took it out of the refrigerator, opened it up, drained the water, and then put a towel on the counter, put paper towel on top of it, then put the tofu down, added more paper towel on top of it, and then put weight on it to press it down to drain more water.

I grabbed our toaster oven pan and put it on top of the tofu, then put our tea kettle on top of that since it had some water in it and a little bit of weight. You can use plates, but sometimes the tofu causes things on top to slide off, so… whatever works for you. Let that sit for a bit… maybe an hour? I probably forgot about it.

Remove the weight, get rid of the wet paper towel, the wet tea towel, and all the jazz. Then cut the tofu into pieces. What size? I don’t know… look at the photo I guess. Not too large, but not too small. (More on that later.)

Next I got a big plastic Tupperware-style container, large enough to lay all the pieces into without stacking them. Before I put the pieces in I added soy sauce, some sesame oil, a little bit of rice vinegar, then more soy sauce…

Next came the spices… Here’s a few I remember: smoked paprika, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and… whatever else I had that seemed like it would fit. Dump a bunch into that soy sauce mix and swirl it around.

Put the tofu pieces into the container, flip them until all sides can soak up the liquid, then sprinkle more spices on the top and stick it in the refrigerator. Come back an hour or more later when you remember you forgot about it. It can sit a long time… whatever.

Now get some corn starch and dump a bunch on a plate. (That shit is messy! It goes everywhere!) Okay, take the tofu pieces out and roll them in the corn starch, covering each side, nice and thick is good. It’ll absorb into the tofu, that’s cool.

Do one piece, put it on a clean plate, surface, whatever, and then do the next, and do them all. Cool.

Once you’ve got them all done, put some oil in a big frying pan. I used olive oil, but use whatever you like/got. Heat that oil and put the tofu pieces in!

Use some tongs, but be careful not to tear the pieces, and check them for crispy done-ness on the bottom, then flip and do the other sides. If you use enough oil you can probably just do the top and bottom, otherwise do the sides as well. They should look browned and crispy, but not burned. Unless you like burned food, like Milt does. (Or did. I don’t know.)

When done take each piece out of the pan and place on new clean paper towel. Once you have them all on paper towel put more paper towel on top and blot out a bunch of oil. Sometimes it’ll stick to the paper towel so be watch out for that. Just press lightly I guess.

Enjoy!

Oh, the size of the pieces… if you make them too large, you don’t get enough crispy outside part and you get too much inside part per piece. If you do them too small it’s a pain to coat them, fry them, etc… So pick a good middle group.

Sorry kids, this is the best I can do for a recipe… at least you didn’t have to read about how I’m a busy (cat) mom on the go who is always trying new recipes. Apologies for constantly switching tense between past and present whatever. Hopefully Dana won’t read this.

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Making Food

Since March and the “Stay at Home” orders due to the global pandemic we’ve rarely gone out for food, and for a while we were trying to order food for pickup at least once a week, partly to support local businesses we love, and partly for variety.

(Astute followers will also be aware of my #BurritoEverything campaign, but that’s another post.)

Due to changes in work and life and finances I’ve been trying more and more to create good/new meals at home. I’ve tried a lot of new recipes, some of them turned out great, by the way… I also started making bread again, which I tend to mainly use for French toast (AKA “eggy bread”) and I’ve realized… this is my MAKING now.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do some making activities, but not as much as I used to, so filling in the gaps with making meals, treats, snacks, food, whatever… has been nice. There have been some clunkers, but overall I’ve make some delicious creations!

My only regret is that I don’t have any events to bring tasty stuff to. Maybe by 2021 that will change. Until then, keep on bAKING!

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Pizzelles

If you don’t know what pizzelles are, well… they’re delicious! Need more info? Let’s go straight to the Wikipedia:

Pizzelle are traditional Italian waffle cookies made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter or vegetable oil, and flavoring. Pizzelle can be hard and crisp or soft and chewy depending on the ingredients and method of preparation. It can be moulded into various shapes, including in the shape of cannoli.

So yeah, that’s a pizzelle. To make them you need a pizzelle press, and luckily I received one as a gift from my youngest daughter recently, so now I make pizzelles. I started making plain ones, but then learned I can make chocolate pizzelles, which are even more delicious. The nice thing about them is that they seem to last a long time and not go stale. I keep them in a container on the counter and even after two weeks they still take fresh and crispy.

Now, a plain (chocolate) pizzelle is good, but damn, you add some Nutella (or other hazelnut & cocoa) spread on top and you’ve just upped your pizzelle game a notch or two!

Pizzelles are pretty darn simple, too. Basically flour, eggs, sugar, butter and flavoring. That’s it. I tend to put them in the press for 60 seconds, remove them, let them cool for 10-15 seconds, then cut into quarters. That’s about the right size for me, but YMMV. I haven’t made waffle cones or waffle cups or cannoli shells (yet) but I’m sure that’s on the horizon.

Remember kids, Baking is Making!

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Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor

Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor

It’s been a lot of fun teaching Electronics and Sculpture, and weird things happen sometimes, so I thought I’d take the time to explain a weird thing, and how it happened. The photo above is a kinetic sculpture titled “Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor”.

Steak Ballet

The photo above is a kinetic sculpture titled “Steak Ballet”. It was created by Atticus, one of the students in the class. When you open the box, the steak (not a real steak) spins around. It’s like a music box, without music, and with meat. (But not real meat.)

During critique we started coming up with a few crazy ideas, and someone, I don’t know if it was me, or if it was Mike, came up with idea of a hot dog, on a spring, that spins around. I honestly can’t remember if one person came up with it, or it was collaborative, but it became a running joke during critique… and in a few classes afterwards.

Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor

Steak Ballet was the third project of the semester. By the fourth project (the mid-term) the hot dog on a spring thing was sort of a regular joke. The mid-term projects were awesome, and I was really proud of the work my students did, so I decided to reward them by building something and showing it to them… thus “Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor” was born. And I gave credit to the class on the bottom of the piece.

Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor

Now, this also all came together for another weird reason… Joe at BBCM brought a bunch of hot dogs into my office and I asked if I could borrow one. Also, Joe knows Atticus and they used to work together. Weird!

And yes, this does continue some of the ideas I was playing with when I created the Pizza Bagel Bot for a robot battle last year.

Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor

Here’s a quick (poor quality) video of the Hot Dog on a Spring on a Motor. (At least it’s not a Vertical Video!)

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Printing Violations (Part III)

3D Printed Cookie Cutters

You loved Printing Violations, and you tolerated Printing Violations (Part II), so we’re back again with another episode of Printing Violations, this time looking more closely at the health issues surrounding 3D printed cookie cutters.

Licensing issues are one thing, but there is a safety concern with 3D printed cookie cutters. Here’s a look at some of the issues. (All assume you are using a home 3D printer like a MakerBot, RepRap, Printrbot, etc.)

Is ABS or PLA plastic filament food-safe?
The answers range from “probably not” to “maybe” in most cases. If you use natural filament it will be free of coloring agents, which is a step in the right direction, but unless you are specifically buying “food-safe filament” don’t expect it to be food-safe. (Keep in mind that “food-safe” is something that will be determined by local health departments, and will vary depending on where you live.)

Then there’s the printer itself, and the environment it runs in. My printer lives in a basement where I do other crazy things like run a drill press, spray glue and paint, and generally make a mess. Would you want your cookie cutter manufactured in such an environment? What has the filament come into contact with before it goes into the machine, and what else has been introduced into the extruder as far as foreign materials? If you’ve ever read up on what it takes to make food in your home and sell it commercially, you’ll have some idea of the restrictions involved. (Wait, we aren’t selling food, right? We’ll get to that, be patient!)

Can 3D printed items be treated to be safe(er?)
If you’ve ever looked at a 3D printed object, you may notice the ridges. Since it’s built up layer upon layer, there are spaces into which food could get stuck. Of course you can try to clean your 3D printed cookie cutter, but don’t put it in the dishwasher! For PLA prints, the heat will either melt it, or deform it, or do some other nasty thing to it. ABS may be better, but you will still need to heat it enough to sterilize it, and hope you can get the crevices clean. It’s been suggested that acetone vapor finishing might be helpful. Helpful enough? Not sure.

Of course you could use your printer to make a mold and then make a food-safe cutter out of another material, but that’s not really a 3D printed cookie cutter. You could also try to coat your printed piece with a food-safe coating, but that’s a lot more work.

So why does all this matter? Because right now, there are people printing cookie cutters and selling them, and there are also people 3D printing cookie cutters, making cookies with them, and selling the cookies.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I love cookies. OK, with that out of the way…)

As mentioned, selling food you make yourself is regulated in most areas, and if you want to start up a business baking in your kitchen and selling the goods, you’re in for a lot of work. I know, I know, it’s all in the name of safety for the public, but there’s a crap-ton of regulations and rules you’ll need to follow. Many places require you to have a kitchen physically separated from your home. As usual, I am not a lawyer, I’ve just done a bit of research. From a maker perspective, we just want to make things! From a public health perspective, let’s try not to make anyone sick, okay?

And yes, I have indeed used 3D printed cookie cutters to make cookies (at least twice) and then gave those cookies to people to eat. No one died yet (that I know of.) I didn’t attempt to re-use the cutters though, so they were a one-time use item, which is probably safer than trying to clean them.

Advice: If you’re going to 3D print cookie cutters, use them only once!

Let’s say you create custom 3D printed cookie cutters and sell them on Etsy or some other site, you should probably include a disclaimer that they should be used only once, since cleaning them is an issue. (Safer yet, tell people they are NOT food-safe, and let them decide if they want to use them. Again, I am no lawyer! Consult your own lawyer!)

Now, as for 3D printing cookie cutters, and then using them to make cookies and sell the cookies, well… This may be worse, since you’re selling actual food that has been created using materials that are questionable as far as being food-safe. Once again, I am no lawyer, but you may need one after selling those cookies.

In conclusion, be safe, people. Many folks are fine with the idea that a piece of ABS plastic touches cookie dough for a second or two before it’s baked at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and others are convinced it’s insane to do such a thing. As with everything, there’s probably some middle ground.

Thanks for reading this, and keep making cookies!

(Big thanks to all the G+ers who helped me out with this. See the thread for more info.)